As the legislature began its session yesterday, hundreds gathered in front of the Capitol to rally for an increase in Minnesota’s minimum wage.
The event featured Brother Ali, among other community performers, in an effort to gather support and pressure lawmakers into making the battle for minimum wage a priority in the 2014 legislative session.
Supporters assembled for the Raise the Wage rally sought to bring attention to several key issues in the minimum wage debate. Most importantly, raising Minnesota’s minimum wage from $6.15 to $8.50 for small businesses and $9.50 for large businesses by 2015. Raise the Wage ralliers also want to ensure that the minimum wage keeps its value by indexing it to inflation and that tipped workers such as servers get protection from having their wages cut by tip penalties.
Almost a decade has passed since Minnesota lawmakers raised the state minimum wage to $6.15. Far from being a national leader, Minnesota is one of four states with a minimum wage lower than the Federal minimum of $7.25. The current federal minimum only amounts to $15,080 a year for a full-time worker, which is not enough to fulfill basic needs, and not nearly sufficient if you have a family.
House Speaker Paul Thissen addressed the issue at the rally, saying that raising the minimum wage is a top priority for Democrats. Gov. Mark Dayton also released the following statement:
“Minnesotans who work full-time should be able to earn enough to lift their families out of poverty, and through hard work and additional training, achieve the middle-class American dream. I strongly support increasing Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50, which would put $472 million each year into the pockets of over 350,000 Minnesotans. Economic experts tell us that low- and middle-income Minnesota workers will spend that money at local businesses on basic necessities, goods, and services – benefiting Minnesota’s entire economy.”
With support from our progressive leaders, struggling Minnesotans may see a brighter future with a fair minimum wage. And those gathered at the Capitol yesterday were in agreement: it’s time to give Minnesota a raise.